IDF representatives conducted meetings with representatives from the Bethlehem Municipality, the Palestinians Security Forces, international organizations and religious representatives in order to coordinate preparations for the upcoming Christmas holiday season.

Date: 22.12.13     Author: IDF Spokesperson

During the course of the season, which begins tomorrow, December 19th, 2013, and concludes on January 20th, 2014, the IDF and COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) will take measures in order to facilitate Christmas celebrations among the Christian Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
 
During the course of the holidays, the presence of security personnel will be increased at the crossings in the Bethlehem area in order to facilitate efficient access of pilgrims and tourists to and from the city.
 
During the holiday season the IDF will facilitate the visit of an unlimited number of Christian Palestinians from Judea and Samaria to Israel. Also, at the request of the Palestinian Authority, Israel will authorize 200 special holiday permits for Palestinians who reside abroad, to visit Judea and Samaria. Approximately 500 Palestinian Christians from Gaza, under the age of 16 and above 35, will be eligible to visit Israel and Judea and Samaria in order to enjoy and participate in the holiday festivities.
 
Lt. Col. Eyal Zeevi, Head of Bethlehem District Coordination Office: “During the holiday season Israel is making a significant effort to safeguard freedom of religion in the area, facilitate participation in religious ceremonies and ensure that Christians in the region enjoy the holiday spirit”.
 
Background Information
During the year 2013 (until November) 1,128,634 tourists entered Bethlehem.
During the past year nine new hotels have been built in Bethlehem, this is in addition to 44 existing hotels in the city.
During the Christmas season over 300,000 visitors are expected to visit Bethlehem and the hotels are expected to be in full occupancy.